When we experience a sore throat or fever, we are reasonably sure we are getting a cold or the flu and take measures to help ourselves get over it. But quite often, we don’t feel quite right within ourselves. Perhaps we feel anxious or uneasy at certain times or with certain people, or our stomach knots up at certain places. We have low-grade depression and just find life hard at times. These can all be symptoms of PTSD or systemic abuse. Part of healing is recognizing that something is just not quite right. Having established that you could be living a much happier and healthier life than you currently are, is the first step in getting help. Your commitment to yourself to get help or find new coping strategies and strategies for overcoming disabling thoughts and behavior are the motivation you need. Let us look at a few ways in which we can recognize unhealthy symptoms.
Mental: Stinking Thinking?
So much takes place in our thinking brain. What are our obsessive thoughts? Do our thoughts and our beliefs align? What are our thoughts about ourselves? Do we beat ourselves up all the time? What are our thoughts about others, families, friends, teachers, etc.? If these are on a constant negative spectrum and churn and return both waking or sleeping. We are constantly thinking about rights and wrongs and get confused with what we were taught and how our reality matches up. Do you have thoughts of self-harm? Make an inventory of your thoughts over several days or a week, write them down without judging them, they just are, and you are now aware of how much time you spend with them.
Physical: Chronic Illnesses?
Physical symptoms are easier to experience but not necessarily to diagnose as sometimes they may have started out as psychosomatic but have taken on reality in your body. Be aware that stress and trauma are retained in the body’s cells as a memory imprint. Do you get stomach aches in certain situations? Did that end up as IBS or chronic inflammation of the bowl? There are many forms that this can take, backaches, migraines, arthritis, etc. After having a thorough physical at your doctor to rule out any disease or illness. Learn to read your body signs when you are feeling stressed or your muscles tighten. Does your heart race, do you get hot, does your stomach contract? When does this happen? Make an inventory over a month, scan your body each day, what symptoms you feel and when.
Emotional: Uncontrollable Outbursts?
We may often feel angry or upset over something that should not really affect us to the degree it does. When do we feel triggered? Are there words that people use that make us feel bad? Or perhaps we will see or smell something that brings back bad feelings. Do we feel guilty over nothing or uncomfortable when certain subjects are talked about? Do you struggle with addictions to make you feel better? Or perhaps places we walk past or through that make us feel uneasy. Take an inventory of these places or incidents and any feelings or thoughts you have about them.
Spiritual: Disillusioned with God?
Do you have a belief system in some Higher Power? Do you believe there is help from someone greater who will guide you by their wisdom? Have you lost your faith? Does the thought of religion turn you off, or do you long for connection with God? Have you been hurt or disillusioned by church and religion or don’t believe that God loves you? Where do you seek spiritual solace? Journal your feelings around spirit, faith, church, God.
Having taken an honest inventory of your dis-ease, you will now have a lot of information to help you identify the symptoms of perhaps a traumatic experience that has affected you most of your life. You will also have places to start looking for healing. We are wonderfully complex creatures made in God’s image, created for a purpose. We are His masterpieces, yet sometimes the mud that sticks to us is hard to remove, marring that image and holding us back from our full potential. According to your situation (we are all different), look for professional help in the area you felt the most in need, a psychologist, medical professional, or spiritual director. Once you have turned the key in the door that unlocks the secrets to your anxiety, unease, and mental health, you will have begun the journey to healing yourself. This may take several years, so have patience with yourself and those who would help you. For those who feel they can help themselves, there are many excellent books and resources available. There are also support groups to help you both on and off-line. Find one that you can gel with and be comfortable sharing your journey. A few resources are mentioned in my previous blog.
What book or e-book would I recommend to my readers this week is the challenge for Welcome to My World? That is a tough question to answer as I have read at least five excellent books this past month in doing the research for my focus articles on Spiritual Wounding,Generational Trauma, and Child Abuse for April.
Healing Spiritual Wounds
I will tell you a bit about each of them, and you can decide if you want to read any. “Healing Spiritual Wounds,” by Carol Howard Merrit. Merrit shares her own story of living in a home where abusive parental practices took place following the teachings of their fundamentalist church. I followed her story through the process of her anger, grief, and shame to reconnecting with God and finding her healing in His love. Sadly, what she writes about has been common practice in many fundamentalist church groups.
Another more practical book was Sacred Wounds by Theresa B Pasquale. This book deals with this sensitive subject, spiritual wounding, and trauma. She has shed a lot of light on the subject, which is close to her heart. She is professionally qualified to write on this subject, and anyone who has had to deal with spiritual abuse or trauma will find the book most helpful with examples from life. People coping with or helping people through their issues with religion and church would find the insight most beneficial. To know where to back off and where to support. Spiritual abuse had a lasting effect on people’s lives and how they can deal with their problems when their concept of God has been corrupted. If you need help for releasing some of these wounds, God has gifted some people to help you, I am happy to share this article by Justina Ford on being Confidently Visible Despite Spiritual Wounding.
Healing Power Through Spirit Born Emotions
For people who want to find ways to connect to God and heal from this type of trauma, a beneficial book with many different angles to approach healing is “Unleashing Healing Power through Spirit-Born Emotions” by Mark Virkler and Charity Kayembe. One of the most exciting things in one of his approaches is that God speaks through images. As an artist, I have always found that I have been closer to God visually. This was in significant conflict with my upbringing when it was only The Word, which quite often, to be truthful, I did not understand! This book shows the numerous ways in which we can communicate with our Creator, which is really quite liberating.
What is the Bible and How Do we Understand it?
Life has certainly moved on since I was a child. Technology has changed so much of how we view the world that was not available to our forebears. The millennial generation thinks and experiences the world in ways that we never could. They also have many questions about the Bible and the Church, so my church here in Washington DC is doing a seminar on hermeneutics. We used the book by Dennis R Edwards, “What is the Bible and How Do We Understand it?” His books on radical faith and the Jesus Way certainly shed a lot of light on many of the problems we have in applying Bible passages to modern life and made so much sense in light of the previous books mentioned.
The Body Keeps the Score
My research converged with listening to a weeklong series of lectures on Dealing with Trauma by a team from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. Their scientific experience verified what I had been learning from the above books but made the picture a lot clearer in the case of the developing child’s brain. Children are helpless to escape from traumatic or ongoing trauma, developing their own mechanisms, which become a learned behavior in their bodies.“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolkis an excellent resource for learning about this.
Deconstructing Old Beliefs
There are other good resources for counseling from Spiritual Abuse. Church as Refuge is leading the movement to bring this to light and bring healing to those who have been taught a theology that had made them doubt their relationship with God. Listen to a short video excerpt by Rev Megan Cox of “Give Her Wings” or check out the website if you know of someone who might need this kind of help.
Memory and Dream Artwork
In January, I signed up to attend classes for Memory and Dreamwork in Drawing with a lecturer at the Royal School of Drawing in London for May. In the very first lesson, I had chosen a nightmare of vegetables chasing me I had had as a small child to work with. Everything fell into place with the eating and stomach problems I had experienced when I looked through the lens of what I had just been reading and listening to! My recent work with the elderly who had dementia made me acutely aware that unresolved trauma can severely impact you in old age. I wanted to deal with any issues that might arise if I got dementia, hence my research. By the same token, I wanted to bring this awareness to the forefront to help point people in the right direction to get the help they might need before it is too late.
I could not choose just one book because one book would not cover the scope of this vast subject with so many facets, as everyone is unique. These books are a good starting point for people interested in the topic or who know someone who is struggling with any aspect of PTSD. Soaked in prayer as to which one will be most helpful in moving you forward. It is also crucial to seek counsel to find therapists who are specialists in PTSD with the spiritual aspect. Being able to reconnect to God is part of the healing process.
It is crucial to seek counsel to find therapists who are specialists in PSDT with the spiritual aspect. Being able to reconnect to God is part of the healing process.
What are your thoughts on PSDT and trauma? Do you think they are original sin? Do you believe that the church can help or harm in the healing of people who have PSDT?
Answering the question “what new thing have I learned this week?” for Welcome To My World was easy.
I signed up for a Symposium held by Harvard University and Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities. It was April 8 World Day Symposium on Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse. There were so many speakers and opportunities to learn new things. Anyone who is interested can check out the YouTube Channel. I will share some of the main takeaways I found especially interesting.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
This symposium had been about twenty years in the making. It drew speakers from over 23 countries around the world as violence against children is a global problem. It also took faith leaders to come together, as faith has been part of the problem as well as the solution. Lifting the veil of this most difficult subject they felt it was better to stand together than to stand alone. This alone can be considered a miracle as they stood together in spirit and solidarity to have the discussion.
The one thing that really shocked me looking at the figures presented about the prevalence of any kind of violence towards children, sexual, physical, or emotional, was that the top eight countries were African, Zimbabwe leading the field with 76-80% of boys and girls being abused. As this was my country of birth I was horrified, and saddened.
God loves a Broken Vessel; every child houses the Divine
A child needs to feel protected and loved, they need a safe place to grow up into healthy adults. When the home environment, schools or churches are no longer safe places, but places to fear, children have nowhere to go. They are marinaded in ongoing trauma, from which there is no escape. The internet adds yet another layer of abuse to children who have access, as online bullying, stalking and other such evils are perpetrated. Faith communities who believe in a loving Father God, must not ignore the plight of children. If children’s pain is discounted, the ethos of faith is in vain. We are marring the image of God in the child and the authoritarian figure of the abuser.
Faith communities who believe in a loving Father God, must not ignore the plight of children. If children’s pain is discounted, the ethos of faith is in vain. We are marring the image of God in the child and the authoritarian figure of the abuser.
Standing with Survivors
Not every child who is abused survives. Those that survive carry with them a heavy burden that they need help in healing from. Listen to the voices of children, look for signs as they may well not verbalize but act out. Safeguarding legislation and practices for those working with children will help in institutions, churches, and schools but not in-home and neighborhood environments. The community needs to be inspired to help on the survivor’s healing journey. How can this be done? Faith leaders can decrease the stigma to the abused and welcome them into their communities. They can learn how to help and make resources available for counseling. The sad thing is in many countries including sub-Saharan Africa there just is not the psychological support available.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
JESUS OF NAZERETH
God in the Work, Work in God
There is not very much investment in healing for children or availability of support for survivors. How does the faith community bring hope, honor, and healing into the lives of children? Children carry the damage caused throughout their life, which affects every part of them, and in turn society as well. Jesus blessed the children brought to him, even though the disciples wanted to chase them away. He also said it was better to have a millstone around your neck and be cast into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to lose their faith. Innocent children need to be protected and loved.
Healing through Art
Another new thing I learned this week, one such survivor Felicia Reed started making fiber art as a means to heal. She now makes the most exquisite Healing Wraps of silk and wool felt with which to wrap people in love, she calls it swaddling. Through the process of creativity, God can begin His work of realigning thoughts and releasing the trauma that is held in the body with His redeeming love. Do check out the CHAW blog and read her story.
Do you know anyone who has had childhood abuse? How can you help and support them? Your voice added to others will also count.Even if you can only pray with compassion, it will add to the prayers to end the scourge of violence against children.
When we get married, we have the starry-eyed dream of ‘happily ever after,’ and especially if we were to marry another Christian. That would make it just perfect or would it? I would like to introduce you to new author, Keabecoe Choene, who has just written a book on her emotional journey through divorce, “When Life, not Death do Us Part.” I asked her whether she would like to share a little bit about herself and why she wrote it with my readers.
Deryn-Tell me a bit about yourself, Keabecoe.
Keabocoe –I am a servant of the Lord. I grew up in Bloemfontein, one of the major cities in South Africa. My mother was a single parent trying to raise four children (two brothers, my younger sister, and I) with my grandmother’s help. In South Africa, grandmothers often helped raise children where parents were separated either by work or relationship difficulties.
I am also a mom to an eight-year-old and an aunt to my two nieces and nephew, my brother’s children.
Deryn-Did you grow up in a Christian environment?
Keabocoe –Yes and no, my family considered themselves Christians like so many South African families, we attended church weekly, but that is the only time we thought about God. I come from a semi-traditional background that worshipped ancestors and yet went to church. Growing up, I considered that the norm. I was ‘born again’ when I was nineteen when I turned fully and totally to Christ alone. I have been a child of God, servant, and follower of Jesus Christ since, and now I am thirty-nine years old.
Deryn-Your perception of marriage was viewed through your home experience with absent fathers?
Keabocoe –Yes, I never knew my biological father, I only met him when I turned 30, and he passed on two years later. I grew up in a household of very strong women. My grandmother took care of us until I was 12 when my mom fetched me and took over. My mom got married to my stepdad; it was a short marriage, though. My stepdad was absent most of the time that my mom was married to him, or maybe he seemed absent to me because I was in boarding school. When I was on school break, I went to my grandmother to visit. I must mention that I did not grow up with my mom in the same house until I was 12. I stayed with my grandmother, who had 11 other grandkids.
Deryn-Did your experience with your parent’s marriage influence your expectations of marriage?
Keabocoe –I had no expectations of marriage growing up. My mom and stepfather divorced because he physically abused us. I did not want to get married. I saw no need for it, strong women raised me, and I knew how capable I could be as a woman; I never wanted to be a mom at all. I did not even imagine it. But my idea of marriage changed when I was born again. For some weird reason, after getting born again, I toyed with the idea of getting married and having children.
Deryn- What part did your culture and tradition play in your expectations of marriage when you met your husband, who was the pastor at your church?
Keabocoe –In my culture and tradition, the male (husband) pays the Lobola (the bride price) to the girl’s family. My ex-husband had to pay lobola for me. Since we were both Christians, him being a pastor, I expected a great marriage. My silent meditation going into this marriage with a man that knew God so profoundly was that my husband would hear from HIm regarding me; by virtue of us both being Christians, I thought that the marriage will work.
Deryn-Your husband also was a Ghanaian and not a South African did you find that even though you were both Africans, the customs of his culture and his expectations were different from yours?
Keabocoe –My ex-husband grew up completely different from how I grew up. He was born in a foreign country; the only thing we had in common was the love we both had for the Lord; I had never in my life seen such deep devotion to God’s work. He was a giver and loved people tremendously, and I was attracted to that. I could look at him, and his heartbeat was just echoing and serving God. We shared that passion; that passion fueled us. Early in my marriage, I soon found out that we needed more than a passion for God to make this marriage work.
His expectation of a wife was not my reality. My demand of him stepping up as a husband was construed as opposition from him. Neither of us was prepared to put in the work our marriage demanded. There were too many people speaking loudly into our marriage, and those same voices drowned us. Our relationship fell apart, and although we kept going, we went our separate ways in marriage. When our son was born, I could not even remember how to laugh out loud.
Deryn-The voices in your marriage, who were they?
Keabocoe –They were Church members and his friends. My ex-husband listened to so many other people more than he ever listened to me. The church and the people drowned any passion I thought I had for ministry. I needed to go back to the Lord, who had called me. I did not have a voice or the will to fight anymore.
One day I looked at myself in the mirror, and I could not see myself; I saw someone who looked like me. I had poured myself out for everyone, and I had not received the same fuel back. I kept fighting everyone who was a threat to my marriage that I neglected managing myself; the more I tried to address these things, the more things got out of control. I had to compete with the church for my husband’s attention, and I could not stand being third place. I knew I had to walk away. And I did.
Deryn-That must have been hard for you?
Keabocoe –That was extremely hard, and I wish the voice of the Lord was much louder. The sad part about getting a divorce as a pastor’s wife is that you have no pulpit to explain yourself to anyone. My ex-husband did his PR and told everyone what he wanted to tell them and what he told them was further from the truth. The only truth he told was I was the one who filed. And because I filed, the church hated me for it. And they were not ashamed to say and show it.
Deryn-What was the Church’s response to you?
Keabocoe –I ceased from being his wife, and I became their enemy; I became the person against his success in ministry. The story he preached not only on that day but continuously, was that I was against his success in ministry. That so many people believed that narrative always baffled me, firstly if I had been against his ministry why would I leave my job and join him to build the same ministry? Secondly, any wife’s joy comes when her man succeeds, his wins were my wins; if he lost, I was counted right there beside him. Why will I want to lose? Any sane wife wants their man to succeed, I wanted him to make it, I prayed that he would, yet I could not watch him in the ministry and fail as a husband and father.
Deryn-What was the reality of being a pastor’s wife in your situation?
Keabocoe –I knew he would be applauded for his ministry, but he failed dismally as a husband and father. He was hardly home. We never went anywhere as a family unless it was ministry-related, and even when we went for ministry, there were too many people with us. We went places alright, but it was work, not family. I got so tired of traveling; I wanted him home. We had no family life, he knocked off late and left early, and when questioned, I was labeled as an “unsupportive wife.”
The church could not wait to get rid of me. When the time for the divorce came, some people were delighted that it was happening. Yet others branded me evil and backslidden. It is too distressing to write all the things that were said to me during that time. I was shattered, discarded, and dismissed.
Deryn-What happened when you left the marital home?
Keabocoe –When I left my marital home to go back home to my mother, my older brother came to pick me up. I packed my clothes and my son’s clothes and left the house. My ex-husband was not home then, and he was out of the province. When he returned, he found me gone and asked me where I was, I told him that I had left, and he said okay. His aunt called me and asked me why I left. I told her I was tired, and I cannot live like that anymore. She told me that in their culture, if a wife goes, the husband does not fetch her; she must either come back, herself or her family must fetch her. I told the aunt that in my culture, a wife needed to be fetched from her family. He never came to fetch me, and I never went back, it was just wrapped around in the culture. I was super disappointed when he did not fetch me because he truly did not want me or loved me.
Deryn-How did I come to the point of peace?
Keabocoe –When Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus answered him, and he said, you shall worship the Lord your God, and only Him shall you worship. The divorce for me was the lowest moment of my life, yet it was a time that God brought me back to worship Him and Him alone. When I thought I had lost it all, my all to me was my husband, position, and material things, yet I had to realize that I had it all along. I had put the Lord on the back burner.
You can’t serve Him effectively without worshipping Him in Spirit and in truth. I had lost my way. Yes, I was serving Him but was I worshiping Him? Worshipping Him is not singing songs to Him about Him. And before I lost my husband, I had turned lukewarm. Like David said before I was afflicted I went astray. My heart was hardened by many other things I did not give to Him. I had carried a lot. In my time of true worship, I stripped it all off and laid bare before Him, I had no desires for anything else, I had reached my crossroad, I had come to the end of me, I was utterly broken. I found my peace when the Lord said in your broken self you are good for me to work with. I could not believe such love, forgiveness, I had to repent of my sins, of getting a divorce, and in that time, the Lord was setting a foundation that no man can shut.
Divorce was hard, painful, and life-transforming for me. I did not see the green pasture everyone raved about after getting divorced. I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I did not want to live, yet today all I live for is Him,” In Him, I move, live and have my being”. Without Jesus Christ, I am truly nothing.
Deryn-What is your book about and what do you hope your readers will gain from it?
Keabocoe –The book is an emotional journey of my divorce; it covers subjects such as anger, guilt, pain, hurt. I documented how God took me through all those phases and eventually led to my healing. It was tough being a child of God and going through a divorce; I faced a lot, including many Christians rejecting me.
I hope that my story will be an eye-opener for many other married people. I pray that it brings healing and salvation to other people who are divorced, going through a divorce, or thinking about divorce. I hope that it also serves as a warning that serving God is great but putting Him first is greater. And after Him, it must be your family, and then working for God can take its rightful place.
Thank you so much Keabecoe Choene…………….
If readers would like a copy of your book where can they obtain it?
January is the month we usually set our goals and resolutions for the year. One of my goals during this season is to find my artistic voice. I was looking back through my old sketchbooks and journals, to my amazement I came across a sketch I had made in 2001 of black and white geometric patterns, with a rainbow through the center, with the words “Transformation” and “Integrations”.A few years ago, after I had been widowed, my church had been going through a program of transformation and reconciliation, and responsible renewal in which they examined scripture in the light of today’s societal problems, updating their thinking and policies accordingly. This had inspired the sketch.
Fast forward ten years, I have been through nine years of working in a new country attending another church, which was not as progressive in their thinking and teaching. I knew I had to get back to the place spiritually I had left in South Africa. Moving to a new country yet again, I had the freedom to be discerning as to where I would worship, I was blessed to have found a local church that stood for all I believed in. I still had places to go in my past to clear up wrong thinking about God, which I dealt with. I was invited to answer “My Most Difficult Question” at one of our church services to tell my story. I was also participated in writing a chapter for an Anthology “How Seven Women of Faith Manifest Godly Success Through Spiritual Intimacy”, The name for my story was ‘From Black and White to Rainbow Colored Thinking’. So, why was I so surprised when found my old sketch when looking to find my artistic voice?
With many interests and being able to enjoy drawing different styles, objects and thoughts I had not been focused on developing any specific style. It now dawned on me there was a common theme to many of my pictures, geometric patterns, both abstract and natural, I liked my pictures to tell a story. God’s story in my life has taken a long time to unfold and is still unfolding. Perhaps I was not focused on following His lead to where I should be or maybe I was following Him through the forest and could not see for the trees! Why do I want to write and paint on this theme of black and white and rainbow colors? Black and white rigid thinking only within your known parameters can seriously hold you back from experiencing the best God has planned for you. I want to be able to share my perspective and perceptions with people who struggle to let go of fundamental thinking.
The starting point is the character of God, I had been indoctrinated at an early age of a God who was always angry and only wanted to punish me, reinforced by family and church discipline. So how could I possibly know Him as a God of love when this was not demonstrated to me? My journey through life has taken me through divorce, widowhood and loss of homeland. It has been a long journey to get from black and white to rainbow colored thinking. To work through the belief systems that did not serve me well, to come to a place of rest in the God of Love. That is why I write and paint what I do, inviting you my readers and viewers to participate in this journey, hoping that if you too have struggled trying to find that God is Love, you may also have the scales from your eyes removed so instead of seeing everything within rigid black and white lines, you can see the radiant burst of color and light that emanates from Him through His creation and eventually be able to appreciate that He is Love and loves you with an everlasting love.